Attachment, Neurobiology and Trauma

Attachment theory

Early relationships with caregivers determine how we form attachments with people. The Strange situation is a procedure devised by Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s to observe attachment relationships between a caregiver and child. In her observations 70% of babies showed a secure attachment style, 15% showed an ambivalent attachment style, and 15% showed an avoidant attachment style. In 1990 an addition attachment style was identified, disorganized attachment, which was evident in less than 4% of babies tested.

The Strange situation is a procedure devised by Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s to observe attachment relationships between a caregiver and child.

Sources of Developmental Trauma

Adverse Childhood Experiences

The 1997 landmark study the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control, researchers identified strong, graded relationships between exposure to childhood traumatic stressors and numerous negative health behaviors and outcomes, health care utilization and overall health status later in life. For example, persons who had experienced four or more categories of childhood exposure, compared to those who had experienced none, had 4- to 12-fold increased health risks for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide attempt. If you have developmental trauma, the truth is you’re going to be at risk for almost any kind of physical health, mental health, social health problem. Recognizing this fact is the basis of what’s known as “trauma informed care.”

“Don’t ask ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Ask, ‘What happened to you?’” Our early childhood experiences wire children’s brains “differently” when they’re raised in a chaotic or violent environment.

Definition of Trauma

Trauma is in an event that overwhelms the central nervous system and changes the way you remember and react. It’s something that happens to your central nervous system and to your mind and makes you incapable of assimilating or integrating the experience into your life.

Sources of trauma

Attachment theory

Early relationships with caregivers determine how we form attachments with people. The Strange situation is a procedure devised by Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s to observe attachment relationships between a caregiver and child. In her observations 70% of babies showed a secure attachment style, 15% showed an ambivalent attachment style, and 15% showed an avoidant attachment style. In 1990 an addition attachment style was identified, disorganized attachment, which was evident in less than 4% of babies tested.

Trauma Experiences

Bessel van der Kolk is a researcher and psychiatrist studying and treating post-traumatic stress since the 1970s. His work focuses on the interaction of attachment, neurobiology, and developmental aspects of trauma’s effects on people.

Social Experiment